Over the past few years, sports fans, athletes, and the financiers behind sports have become more and more aware of the long term affects of sports. Football, boxing, and mixed martial arts have been in focus in regards to the recent studies on the affects of concussions, and even the affects of repetitive pre-concussive blows.

The studies didn’t produce any shocking evidence to those involved in sports that cause head trauma. What it did was make it a conversation that couldn’t be brushed off or pushed aside by those involved in the sport.

Recently, Brock Lesnar sited his concerns about head trauma in while the jury was still out on whether he would return to the UFC.  T.J. Grant has been on the sidelines since May of 2013 due to a concussion and lingering symptoms from it. Jamie Varner announced his retirement at the end of 2014 after receiving reports from his doctor that he had suffered from an estimated thirty or more concussions. Varner just thirty years old has admitted to having some cognitive issues already.

Those are just a few examples of the long and short term affects of the head trauma absorbed in the sport, and the concerns that studies have brought to the forefront. Yet, we still have fighters going out there in bouts that have little impact on the sport, but present a entertainment product that generates money.

UFC Fight Night 64 just took place in Krakow, Poland. The main event was a rematch between Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Filipovic. This was Filipovic’s (more commonly known as “Cro-Cop”) return to the UFC. He was handed his pink slip back in 2011 by the aforementioned promotion because he had lost three straight fights by knock out or technical knock out. In total he has five losses by either TKO or KO. Many would argue that Cro-Cop should have hung up the gloves and done anything he could to prevent further head trauma. Instead he continued fighting in smaller promotions. How did he end up back to the UFC?

He won two straight fights over the same guy, that doesn’t usually grant some one a call from the UFC though. It was after rumors started to be generated that Bellator MMA, UFC’s largest competitor, was in talks with Filipovic that the signing was announced by the UFC. It’s speculation, but, the conclusion that he is back with the UFC because they don’t want Bellator MMA to have a big name isn’t far fetched. So, it comes down to business and the athletes desire. Cro- Cop came out looking stiff against Gonzaga on Saturday, but rallied in the third round for a spectacular finish. Therefore, the discussion on Cro-Cop’s ability to compete is curbed. At least until something happens in the cage that makes him retire.

Bellator MMA is also currently promoting a fight that is far more rediculous. While Cro-Cop has certainly taken damage over the years and is no spring chicken at forty years old, it’s no comparison to Ken Shamrock. Shamrock is currently scheduled to compete against a forty-one year old Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson. While the argument can be made that Ferguson shouldn’t be fighting, there isn’t a clearer case of a fighter that should remain in retirement than Ken Shamrock.

Ken Shamrock has suffered a total of nine losses by knock out or technical knock out in competition. That isn’t taking into account the pre-concussive blows that he absorbed over the course of forty-three professional fights. Then the head traumas that he suffered during training all those years must also be taken into account. During a Bellator MMA press conference Shamrock made claims that he earned the right to fight for fun.

At the end of the day the individual is responsible for his or her own well being. That doesn’t mean that promotions are with out fault in putting these events on. They are still profiting off of it. There are athletic commissions in place that must approve the bouts, but that isn’t always reliable. Commissions themselves are typically government bodies. The States, Cities, etc profit from having large events in the jurisdiction which creates a clear conflict of interest on their part. How can a bureaucratic construct be trusted to protect the well fare of fighters when they themselves are impacted by the decision financially.

The athletes, commissions, and promotions that allow these types of fights to take place are putting not only the fighter at risk, but the sport as a whole. There hasn’t been a death in a major promotion yet, and if and when it happens many fear the impact that it will have on the sport. Every year Football, Nascar, Skiing and countless other sports have deaths and serious injuries, but it’s different. MMA is a combat sport, and isn’t as widely accepted in the main stream. If a death happens, or a fighter suffers a major injury during a fight similar to Cro-Cop and Gonzaga or Shamrock and Kimbo Slice it will have irreversible affects on MMA.

About The Author

Michael Davis
Director, Business Development/Senior Staff Writer

Michael Davis is a seasoned professional in the world of finance. In recent years, he has worked for Fortune 500 companies and consulted at one of the largest hedge funds in the world. After working closely with a mixed martial arts management company, he realized he could apply his skills to the sport he loved. The culmination of his professional experience and passion for MMA have led him to his role as Senior Staff Writer and Director of Business Development at The MMA Corner.